If you use any kind of automation in your image acquisition, you have already enjoyed its benefits in terms of exposure times. You probably have some kind of cloud monitor and automation software, and after setting everything up and checking it's running fine, you enjoy going to sleep.
But... what happens if the computer (probably running Windows) freezes? Or if the power fails? And what about the automation or image acquisition program getting stuck?
This recently happened to me (again) and, after a well deserved sleep, I found the observatory open and the CCD camera hitting the pier, and the mount controller displaying a message "Press any key to reverse..."
The only true solution to be able to sleep, is to have something supervising the observatory from outside, and waking you up in case of problems.
For quick download links, just click here.
- you're waked up by a wrong alarm (the network fails, but everything in the observatory is ok; or maybe you miscalculated a timeout).
- you're waked up by a true alarm but a bit late because you programmed a long timeout (like the IC1396 one in the example), and the automation software hung very soon after that. The PC is running fine, mind you, else a "communications down" alarm would fire. This can be solved going into finer detail (shorter timeouts) and should not harm in any case.
... even in these worst cases your equipment will be as protected as it has ever been.
What kind of smartphones does it run on?
It is available for iPhone, iPad and iPod touch, and also for Android phones and relatives.
How about tablets?
Well, it will run (confirmed for Apple's iPad; most surely for Android ones), but will probably look a bit ugly.
Does it send SMS, emails, or what?
No SMS, they are not reliable enough; no emails either. Both systems, apart from unreliable, need the observatory PC up and running. The GNS uses sockets (TCP/IP) to constantly communicate with the observatory computer.
We suggest to put the phone in "airplane" mode to avoid receiving calls or unwelcome SMSs.
Is a free version available?
Yes, the GNS Nap Edition. A free version whose purpose is to let you check if everything runs smooth. It will run for 30 minutes before timing out, and the watchdog will not be operative (it is used for the 30 minutes timeout, actually!).
Is it expensive?
I don't think so; it is not as cheap as a the typical smartphone game app, as the market is not, by far, as big, but for about 20€ / 24$, you'll add a nice layer of protection to your astroimaging.
Can I purchase it now?
Yes - for all currently available platforms, see links.
The Windows program and the user's manual are also available.
Couldn't the Windows program gather more information, be more informative?
The key is to keep it simple, so we get rid of (most) problems. It must be reliable. If it were to check the mount position via ASCOM, many other elements and more complexity will make it more prone to fail, hang, or misbehave. This said, we could develop some "satellite" programs for integration with 3rd party devices or software, but then they will run apart from the main GNS module, just updating it in case of need.
Will it work with my current software?
Thanks to the efforts of their authors, it has native support in Maxpilote, CCDAutoPilot and Sequence Generator PRO: for these programs your only work will be to check the relevant option!
By design, it works "out of the box" with CCDCommander, and with ACP.
From MaximDL it can be partially used from the "autosave" sessions.
While official Prism support is added, there's a free (and great) utility written by Niklas Stork.
From the AAG CloudWatcher software it is possible to launch a script in case of changes in the "safe" status - these can be used to update the GNS, too.
Please let us know if you'd like your favourite software working with the GNS - and it is not listed here.
Why is this limited to astronomy?
I see uses in my IT job.
Well, it is not limited. Being an avid astronomer, I came up with this idea, but then I realized how useful it would have been in my past career as sysadmin. Contact us and we'll happily help you put it to work in other fields.
- the apps will only use your Smartphone storage to save its own settings
- they won't access your calls, contacts, identity... nothing at all
- the only data they'll know about you is what you configure in the settings
- ... and even that won't be shared with anyone. Ever.